(iStock)

With so many demands and distractions in everyday life, it takes a conscious effort to keep up with your friends’ and family’s lives, too. A few organizing tips can help you manage milestones, calendars and contact information, making it easy to remember birthdays, send cards and just check in with people at important times.

Managing milestones

Enter dates into your electronic calendar or use an app that tracks birthdays and important dates. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s also one of those things that often remains on a to-do list for a long time simply because it’s not considered an urgent task.

The key for those important dates is to set a reminder so you’re alerted seven days in advance. Yes, you can always wish someone a happy birthday on Facebook or via e-mail, but it’s so nice to send a card or gift, especially to someone close to you, and it’s even better when it arrives on time! Similarly, set a reminder to check in after a certain period of time with a friend who has a new baby or has lost a loved one. It’s easy to let time slip by; a reminder will make it harder to procrastinate.

Birthday Board is an app (compatible with Apple products) that lets you import birthdays from your contacts or from Facebook, and you can also enter dates manually. Because birthday notifications already appear on Facebook — and you probably don’t need to take special note of the birthday of a random high school classmate or work acquaintance — Birthday Board might be most useful for setting reminders for your closest family and friends. Those are the important dates that you want to prepare for by organizing a party, sending a gift, card or flowers.

If you prefer using paper, keep an updated calendar or list, organized by month, on a centrally located bulletin board. One advantage of a paper calendar is that it’s accessible to the whole family — and having one master calendar can help you avoid scheduling conflicts. On the first day of each month, take a look to see what important dates are ahead.

Card-sending basics

If you’re going to the store to buy a birthday card, take a few minutes to look at your calendar or check your app so you can buy cards for the whole month in one trip. Many of us rush into the store to buy just what we need immediately, but taking an extra few minutes to stock up will save you time later. And always keep stamps on hand. If you don’t want to make a special trip to the post office, buy stamps online at USPS.com or purchase them at the grocery store checkout.

Keep a box or two of blank cards on hand to use for any occasion and always keep a couple boxes of thank-you cards at the ready. However, it is very easy to accumulate many more notecards than you’ll ever need, so keep your supply in check. If there are cards you don’t think you’ll ever use, recycle them or check with a local school, art studio or nursing home to see whether they can use them.

Keeping the calendar current

Keeping electronic and/or written calendars up to date is essential for remembering important events and milestones. If you RSVP to a party, make sure to put the event on your calendar at the same time. If you’ve planned a dinner out, make sure to note the time and location on your calendar so you don’t have to search through e-mails later. If you would like to bring a present or a dessert, note that on your calendar, too — or add it to your shopping list at the same time you RSVP. Try not to get too caught up in how you keep your calendar — just choose what works for you and be consistent.

Updating addresses

There are many ways to keep your contacts updated. Some people keep an address spreadsheet that provides a quick glance of all those people to whom they frequently send greeting cards or other snail mail. Saving the document on your desktop or in the cloud makes it easy to update it when change-of-address cards or notifications of a move arrive. Take a few minutes after the holidays to sort through cards and note any address changes or kids’ names or ages that you might have forgotten. This also helps with printing labels at the holidays or for other large mailings.

Apps can also help you organize your contacts. CircleBack is a Vienna-based company with a new app that manages your contacts and eliminates duplicates. Rory Channer, the company’s chief business officer, said the app also will automatically make updates, sync between all devices and store contacts in the cloud. The app connects to popular social media platforms to bring your various sets of contacts together in one place.

Keeping key addresses up to date on your phone enables you to send cards on the fly. And if you receive an important business card, try to enter the information into your phone or computer the same day you receive it. Then you can toss the business card instead of leaving it floating around on your desk.

The nice thing about the digital age is that you can always track someone down on Facebook or with a bit of Internet research, but wouldn’t it be nice not to have to do that all the time? Taking a few minutes to try a new app or to update calendars and addresses can save a lot of time when you want to mark a milestone — or just be a better friend.

More from Home & Garden:

Chat with color expert Susan Hable

Where to sell your clothes around D.C.

How seniors and families can cut the clutter